MOSCOW - Countries that "sow chaos" in Syria could find the tables turned, Syrian President Bashar Assad told a state-run Russian television station in comments aired on Wednesday.
Assad gave one of the few interviews he has conducted during a 14-month crackdown on anti-government protests to a station from Russia, which has supported him with arms supplies and vetoes in the UN Security Council. Western governments have told Assad to step down.
Assad suggested the West was behind an uprising against his rule and told Rossiya-24: "Whatever happens in the Middle East, the chaos that is now being created, the terrorism, will have a bad effect on Europe as well, because it is not far from our region."
"If you sow chaos in Syria you may be infected by it yourself," Assad said, according to the station's translation of his remarks from English into Russian. Assad, calm and sporting a dark blue suit, answered questions put by a smiling Russian interviewer. The interview was recorded in Syria on Tuesday.
Russia, like Syria, has blamed rebels for much of the violence since a ceasefire went into effect on April 12 under United Nations/Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.
Asked if he had brought about the violence by introducing reforms too slowly in a country where his Baath movement has ruled for 49 years, Assad said: "Syria is now facing the serious problem of terrorism ... Terrorists don't care about reforms. They don't fight for the sake of reforms, they fight for the sake of terror."
Russia has vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions condemning Assad's government for the crackdown, one of which would have called for him to cede power.
Assad said Western sanctions were affecting Syria's economy but Damascus could find a way to survive given its "wonderful relationship" with non-Western countries. "We can find alternatives that let us overcome these difficulties. Europe and the United States don't make up the entire world," he said.
He also lashed out at France, one of his fiercest critics under former President Nicolas Sarkozy. "If we talk about France, you know that it participated in military attacks and is responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Libyans," Assad said. "I hope the new president will think about the interests of France. I am certain that they do not lie in further inciting chaos and crisis in the Middle East and the whole Arab world."